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Logitech Z-560 Speaker System 8th November 2002

Logitech are a well known name in the home speaker arena and this is their latest offering which aims toward the home cinema enthusiast. Here's a look at what you get for a RRP of £199:

Four satellite speakers that are identical and a subwoofer along with ample wiring which can be seen at a glance is standard speaker wire. This will please Hi-fi enthusiasts as it means you can use whatever cable you like - quite useful considering the fact that the supplied cable is not very good quality (we used 79-strand for the tests which is much better and costs under 50p per meter). The speakers themselves have terminals for bare wire and can also accommodate the standard "banana plugs" similar to fully-fledged Hi-fi speakers.

One complaint we have is that the feet of three of the speaker stands were slightly bent so they wobbled on a flat surface. This was probably due to careless transportation but cannot have been helped by the flimsy egg-carton type packing the system was encased in.

Included with the system is a control box which connects at one end to the sound card's outputs and the other end to the subwoofer. This is a useful feature that means the subwoofer can be hidden out of sight under a table and the volume adjusted using the controls on this box. The subwoofer itself has speaker terminals for bare wire, as is the case with many Hi-fi amplifiers, again to allow for custom cable types to be used.

Here is a quick rundown of the specs as published by the manufacturer:

· Superior, five-piece THX®-Certified Audio System features powered subwoofer and four satellite speakers
· 400-RMS watts of awesome power for DVDs, music, and PC games
· 20 cm. diameter "long-throw" subwoofer with wood enclosure, delivers thunderous bass performance for the ultimate audio experience
· Ultra-wide bandwidth, phase-aligned satellite driver technology captures distortion-free tones across the full spectrum of sounds
· SoundTouch™ Control Centre with separate controls for volume, fader, and bass. Headphone socket included
· Patented M3D™ technology delivers realistic surround sound for intense gaming pleasure and fine quality music reproduction from standard two-channel stereo sound sources
· Home stereo style connectors use standard speaker wire so you can place the speakers anywhere you choose
· THX® certified
· Total power output: 400 watts RMS - Subwoofer: 188 watts RMS - Satellites: 212 watts RMS (4 x 53 W)
· Frequency response: 35 Hz - 20 kHz
· Signal-to-noise ratio: > 100 dB (A)
· Input impedance: 10,000 ohms
· Maximum SPL: 114 dB
· Satellites: high excursion, ultra-wide bandwidth driver with aluminium phase plug
· Subwoofer: large displacement 20 cm driver in solid wood enclosure
· Amplifier: true linear power amplifier with massive toroidal power supply
· Connectors: pro audio multi-junction speaker wire connectors, 3.5 mm headphone jack, front & rear channel inputs

Since this is a 4-speaker system setting up was straightforward - one speaker either side of our 21-inch monitor and the other two directly behind the listener at ear level. As there is no way to adjust the relative gains of each channel we had to rely on Logitech to have set up the balance correctly although we would still have preferred some way to compensate for the individual characteristics of a room.

Eager to test the THX certification we attached it to a variety of sound cards, all of which allowed 4-speaker outputs using 2 3.5mm jack-plugs. Those games that allowed for EAX effects made use of the rear channels and provided atmospheric music and although such games will make fuller use of surround sound in the future we see little evidence today of anything other than music being used in this way. The bass was sufficiently booming although somehow lacking in depth when it came to very low frequencies such as thunder but the satellite speakers showed no evidence of any distortion even at high volumes.

The system has no direct digital interface and no decoder so we couldn't try optical or co-axial inputs and were unable to connect a DVD player directly to this system. It would have been useful to provide inputs for sources other than sound cards and some phono inputs could have enhanced the systems versatility. We tested DVDs on this system by using WinDVD set for 4-speaker output. No matter what we did we could not get 4-speaker output from our Hercules Fortissimo sound card so were forced to throw it away. This left us with a SoundBlaster Audigy, a VideoLogic Sonic Fury (Turtle Beach drivers) and a PURE Digital Sonic Xplosion all of which are capable of 4-speaker (6-speaker in one case) output as well as digital output. The systems tested on were an Athlon XP1600+ and a Dual Athlon MP1800+ to ensure plenty of processing power for audio and video decoding (WinDVD requires more processing power for surround sound modes than for just stereo). Continuos monitoring of CPU usage reassured us that we could have used our old P3-800 system without any problems.

On Saving Private Ryan with the volume turned up on the D-Day landing scene we could feel every explosion and sound effect although dialogue was not as clear as it could have been. On reflection this is probably due to a lack of dedicated centre channel. Overall the speakers acquitted themselves quite well and the powerful subwoofer really showed its strengths for home cinema use.

The lobby scene in the Matrix is another reference point that we use to evaluate surround sound systems and here things were a little more disappointing. On a full DTS system we can expect the sound stage to pan with the camera and to hear every small noise such as where spent cartridge cases land - just by the sound. We were not able to do this and the M3D mode with creates a pseudo sound stage couldn't help either. This is probably down to a lack of centre channel again as WinDVD settings swore blind they were outputting proper 4-channel Dolby surround sound.

The quality of the system is evident and it is easy to see how a THX certification was awarded here. Power is ample at 400W RMS for the system and music sounds great from Audio CD or MP3. Something is lacking however, and it seems to be the lack of 5.1 capability. With DTS compatible systems available for less than half the price of the Z-560 it seems overpriced for what is provided. It is difficult to imagine anyone buying a speaker system in this day and age and not opting for a 5.1 speaker solution. The system is fine for PC use but is considerably lacking in the home cinema department. A version is available with these extra features (the Z-680) but is priced at a RRP of about £100 more. We have to admire the build quality and applaud the use of bare wire but at the end of the day a fully-fledged DTS system can be had for the same or lesser price. To be fair though, this system is really aimed at hardcore PC power users (gamers etc.) who probably already have a 5.1 channel system for home cinema use and only require 4-channel output from PC software. Or alternatively, people who have no interest in Home Cinema, DVDs and true surround sound (assuming such persons actually exist), and their key focus is on their PCs. Such users will probably want the most powerful system they can get their hands on and in this regard the Z-560 does not disappoint with considerably more wattage than its nearest competitor.

Pros

  • THX certification.

  • Lots of power (400W RMS total).

  • Bare wire terminals used throughout.

  • Control Centre for easy adjustments.

Cons

  • No 5.1 Channel capability.

  • Overpriced for a 4-speaker system.

  • Frequency response of subwoofer drops off below 40Hz.

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